5 Questions with Savor St. Louis Food Tours In Missouri
Jennifer Schmid of Savor Saint Louis Food Tours in Missouri tells us about the local culinary scene.
Savor Saint Louis Food Tours is brought to you by the Smith family, owners and operators of one of Saint Louis’ most-beloved corner taverns and restaurants, The Royale Food & Spirits. Jennifer (Smith) Schmid is an avid lover of food, family and Saint Louis. Jennifer loves to find the newest culinary hotspots in the city and enjoy them with her family – so a family owned and operated food tour business was a natural next step for her.
1. What neighborhoods should a foodie explore when they come to St. Louis?
St. Louis is a city of neighborhoods. Each has a unique character and interesting restaurants. We recommend visiting Soulard/Benton Park. One of the oldest neighborhoods with a French history. Home to one of the Midwest's largest Mardi Gras celebrations. The Soulard Farmers Market dates back to the 1840's and continues to run today just as it did back then. Many restaurants favor Cajun and Creole cuisine, while others explore newer tastes. The Benton Park neighborhood flows from Soulard and has a diverse range of restaurants and one of the critically acclaimed restaurants, Sidney Street Café.
Lafayette Square, filled with patrician homes from the 1800's and a charming Victorian Park, is a must see. The main business streets are lined with restaurants and cocktail bars that have won kudos from the press.
The Central West End, a popular area, is the perfect walking neighborhood with 19th century mansions nestled with 20th century high-rises. The eclectic population that lives there or dines there demands good food, inventive menus and innovative preparation.
"The Hill" is the Italian area, mostly Sicilian. The neighborhood is still intact as it was at the turn of the century. Shotgun houses and a fabulous place to eat on every corner.
Clayton, an inner ring suburb that borders St. Louis City, close to St. Louis Forest Park, is filled with talented chefs and one of the areas much touted restaurants like Niche.
University City abuts Washington University and has some great less expensive but still unique offerings. With the university’s heavy influence of international students, there is a lovely assortment of bistros and small eateries from Asia and the Middle East as well as great food that is fresh and inexpensive.
South Grand Avenue is also multicultural with all sorts of cafes from Somalian to Afghan.
2. What St. Louis food experiences should be on our "must do" list?
- Crave a taste for barbeque? We have some of the best at Pappy's Smokehouse.
- Delicious freshly made pasta? The Pastaria is award winning.
- The thick crust pizza from Pi is unique.
- How about a return to the 1950's? Carl's Drive-In with homemade root beer and griddled hamburgers.
- Have a taste of some of the most popular St. Louis foods from the 1950's, 60's 70's and 80’s done with a twist at Alumni St. Louis.
3. Concretes, toasted ravioli, and that funky pizza. Explain.
Every city has its special group of foods that are popular with the natives and St. Louis is no different. These foods are usually not found anywhere but here.
We love our Ted Drewes Concretes, custard blended with any combination of dozens of ingredients, served in a large yellow cup with a spoon and straw. The mixture is so thick that a spoon inserted into the custard does not fall if the cup is inverted. Open since the 1930’s, it has a crowd standing outside the hut waiting their turn in all but the coldest months.
Most Italian restaurants serve a version of toasted ravioli. It is an appetizer served with marinara sauce on the side for dipping. It is said that the first toasted ravioli was an accident. The delicacy was stumbled upon when a raviolo was accidentally dropped into the fryer by Chef Fritz. Mickey Garagiola, older brother of Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer Joe Garagiola, was actually at the bar during the mishap and was the first to taste the accidental treat. Shortly after, the item began appearing on menus across the Italian "The Hill" neighborhood of St. Louis.
“The Hill" is also the place where St. Louis style pizza, with its thin almost cracker crust with pizza sauce and toppings and then the crown jewel, provel cheese. Rumor has it that provel came into use because it melted better that provolone alone. It is a white processed cheese that is created through the combining of cheddar, Swiss, and cheeses. Provel has a low melting point and, thus, has a gooey and almost buttery texture at room temperature. It is dearly loved by St. Louisans but not by anyone else.
4. What can people expect on your food tours?
Our Savor Saint Louis Food Tour is a great way to taste some of the best food in the Central West End neighborhood restaurants and learn about the history, architecture, culture and interesting “insider” tidbits of this area. At the end of the tour, one feels that they know one area of our city fairly well and had one satisfying, progressive lunch too. They can go back to one of the five restaurants visited or try some of the others that we have suggested. It is such a fun way to learn a new city plus one gets a good walk in the neighborhood.
5. Which St. Louis chefs should we keep an eye on?
Many of our chefs have trained on the West Coast or in New York but decided to return to their roots here in the Midwest. They in turn, have trained others here. The result is lots of amazing menus from all of this talent. Some of our James Beard nominees should be on the "must do" list.
Executive chef Kevin Willmann at Farmhaus Restaurant (3257 Ivanhoe Ave.), Kevin Nashan at Sidney Street Café (2000 Sidney St.), Matthew Daughaday at Taste (4584 Laclede Ave.), Gerard Kraft at Niche (7734 Forsyth Blvd.) and Ben Poremba at the imaginative Olio (1634 Tower Grove Ave.) are ones to watch.
For desserts, there is French trained Simone Faure at La Patisserie Chouquette (1626 Tower Grove Ave.), not to be missed.